Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Horizontal Rule (for Sam)

Sam Renseiw recently picked up on a reference I made to the Horizontal Rule. This is a formal compositional device that Martin Blažíček and I identified last year in Lucca. Lucca is an Italian medieval city, one of the few with its city wall still intact (see our circumnavigation of the city around the wall here) and contains some fine examples of medieval architecture intact after several hundreds of years. It is also a very rich city, so devastatingly well-preserved and picturesque that more or less where ever one points a camera produces an image that could easily pass for a tourist postcard view. In order to overcome this and produce video sequences that might provide some new insights into the city space and its architecture, we proposed the use of strict compositional rules. So in capturing images around the city we started to deploy the Horizontal Rule and its close relative the Vertical Rule. This determines that any straight line within the image composition, whether it be a moving or static shot, should as far as possible, depending upon ones ability to keep the camera straight while moving smoothly, remain horizontal and central, or vertical and central. This then traces a line that acts as a ‘rule’ bisecting the image plane as precisely in half as possible.

From the above it is clear that my own hand is not as steady as it might need to be - no matter, it’s always possible to straighten things up in editing software. The Horizontal/Vertical Rules can ensure a compositional consistency from one image to the next, and one can start to achieve interesting results by combining two sections using a strict 50% divide from two different images:

And also to further layer and multiply these:

A project concerned primarily with space suggests that attention can be firmly concentrated on spatial organisation. The videos above are as far as I have got in experimenting with the possibilities of the Horizontal Rule to date. It might seem contradictory that an investigation of place should benefit from the imposition of a formal compositional rule, rather than a more 'open' exploration, the more 'intuitive' approach, but there would seem to be great potential for constriction to reveal new perspectives from the peripheral spaces of corners, between spaces of shadows. The spatial is the realm of the chance meeting, continuously accidental collision of sounds, voices, people, traffic and architecture, its character and identity can reveal hitherto unforeseen connection through the imposition of a strict organising principle.

I acknowledged of course that formal strategies applied to the production of images of particular places are not uncommon in experimental film, however these have typically concentrated upon elucidating structure and process, their ostensible subject matter mostly secondary to issues of temporal structure, the relationship between the camera/viewer and the visual reproduction of images and other more didactic intent, often through a practice of heroic endurance in both the production and reception of the images.

The challenge perhaps is to make formal experimental processes responsive and porous to the particularities of space and place; to excavate new local phenomena through form, where, in the words of Doreen Massey "...the complex resonances of place, the constitutive interrelatedness of social space, the radical contemporaneity of an ongoing multiplicity of others, human and non-human..." become integral to the exploratory representative process, rather than space and place simply being reduced to the status of arbitrary material for formal experimentation.



oh! thanks!
what a generous and in-depth answer indeed, to my candid, tentative question.
this is absolutely fascinating, and, i must say, thoroughly instructive ( and, of cource, extremely inspiring!). beats hollis framton's "zorns lemma", and actually expands the teritory, in a much more conscious way.
the simultaneity of the juxtaposition might have even one more level to it, when seen from a cognitive point of view... a multi layyered much more complex reading that might seem infinite...

re: zorn's lemma >http://www.ubu.com/film/frampton.html

Steven Ball said...

Thanks Sam. It was good to have an excuse to backtrack and sort through that material. Of course I know Zorns Lemma, and you are being far too generous with that comparison!